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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Round 2: Bodega Bay

The Links at Bodega Harbor is one of all time favorite golf courses.  It's one of the first courses Wes took me to play when he dragged me back to the game and the 5th hole, which has variously terrified and befuddled and challenged me over the years that I've play the course remains one of my favorites.  Take a look back at Playing Favorites, an earlier post about my relationship with the 5th hole.  I think you'll enjoy it.

Bob Caldwell (left) and me, and one of the other Bodega
regulars, enjoying a pre-round group hug!
Wes and I go back to Bodega Bay again and again.  The course is about an hour north of Marin County -- the filming location for Alfred Hitcock's film, The Birds, for those of you who are over 50.  And, as is the case with the game of golf, we have developed friendships.  Bob Caldwell, the PGA Pro at Bodega, always greets us with a big smile and I inevitably enjoy a great hug from him.

It was a great day for golf at Bodega, sunny, light wind, harbor seals barking in the distance, keeping the fog horn company.  (I don't know why the fog horn was blowing when the sun was out.  But it's part of the Bodega ambience.)

It was not a great day for me to play golf.  Maybe I was entirely too relaxed from the Yoga class Wes and I went to last night.  I did get some great stretches.  Maybe it was because I didn't get my huge bowl of steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast.  I had to make do with a cup of Greek yogurt and a muffin from Starbucks because I also had a 9am date with my friend Jane to get my birthday pedicure.  Maybe it was because I played my round with newly pained toenails that had snazzy little flowers on my big toes (Very California, Jane assured me when she talked me into adding the flowers.)

Whatever the reason, I was down 4 at the turn.  I played competently, but Wes played brilliantly.  When his putter failed him he started putting with his 3-wood, and it seemed to work for him!  Imagine, putting with a 3-wood.  I had to be satisfied with enjoying watching Wes's balls soar off the face of his clubs and roll faithfully into cup after cup.  We both stayed out of the rough and, for the most part, out of the sand.  It was just one of those round of golf when I was outplayed.

But as the match unfolded and it became clear to both of us us that his game was better than mine today, we relaxed, chatted as we worked out way from tee box to fairway to green, and on to the next hole.  There is no better place than a golf course to put aside the daily distractions in our lives -- work, relationships, finances, climate change, irritating neighbors -- and simply enjoy the company of another person.  Wes and I have many rounds of golf still to be played together, and there's simply no need to contaminate the day with gloating or pouting.

The match was over on the 15th hole, and I actually played the last 3 holes better than I had the first 15.  The final 3 are incredibly engaging.  16 and 17 are played on a narrow strip of land between the ocean and a marsh.  The cart path leaves the 15th green, crosses a road, and makes a winding descent to the marsh, where it intersects with a boardwalk that runs across the marsh.  There are push carts for those of us who don't have any intention of carrying our clubs.  We parked our cart, I off-loaded onto a pushcart, and we strolled across the marsh, with the grasses and cattails at their full summer growth, well above eye level.

I've walked this boardwalk in all seasons, and each time there's something new that I haven't noticed before.  Today, there were small, pale green tendrils of marsh plant, curling across the mud at the side of the boardwalk.  Such rich color -- the delicate, pale green shoots of plant life stretching across the deep brown marsh mud.

And then, at the end of the boardwalk, there's more golf course?  The small, narrow 16th fairway, bordered on one side by the marsh and on the other by beach dunes and scrub, ends in a little green that looks benign but has some tricky dips and rolls in it, just to wake you back up to the reality of golf.  Then, another boardwalk across more marsh to the 17th par-3 that's only about 70 yards from the forward tees to the green, straight up another narrow little fairway to a green that has an impossible pitch back down toward the tee box.  Getting to the green and then staying there requires a high lofted shot than lands softly and sticks.  My 9 iron did the trick.

I've always enjoyed those two holes.  They're a special, quiet little spiritual retreat for me.  And in order to take on the 18th hole at Bodega one must be spiritually as well as physically fit.  The deceptively short par 4 involves some serious course management to get from the tee box to the edge of the fairway, maybe 160 yards, negotiate a drop-off and a vast space of impenetrable rough, and get to a green that's still about 160 yards away.   I decided today was my day to play the 18th hole properly and correctly.

I set up and executed a perfect tee shot, placed the ball in the center of the fairway, with a flat lie, right at the point where the drop-off begins.  For me, the 2nd shot is a challenge because I can't get to the green.  It's too far for this little old lady.  So I pulled out my 3 wood and elected to try a shot that skimmed along the left side of the vast space.  I'd hoped to land the ball at the bottom of the hill in some light rough and pitch it up onto the green.  I hit it a little too far left and watch in dismay as it slammed into some thick stuff on the hillside.

Then Wes let out a whoop -- Mom, you hit it so hard it came out!  It's at the bottom of the hill!

That sweet little ball had come to rest on a fluffy tuft of grass that was sprouting up in a barren patch of rocky dirt, about 8 inches from the cart path, about 60 yards from the green.  I pulled out my 8 iron, gave it a little tap, and it did exactly what it was supposed to do.  It popped up over the grass, landed on the edge of the slightly elevated green, and rolled to within about 10 feet of the cup.

Put it in the cup, Mom.  End this with a par! Wes, the winner of today's match, now my cheerleader.  And I wanted badly to do just that.  But I ended with a 2 putt and a bogey.  Still, a perfect ending to a perfectly lovely round of golf.

We play the tiebreaker tomorrow.